There was a lot to love about the Villanova game. Paul Harris finally getting a favorable matchup against Nova’s smaller front line, and just exploiting the hell out of it. Donte’s mini-explosion in the first half when the team needed him to step up, lest the game get away early. Jonny Flynn entering the lane at will. Rick Jackson finally looking like he belonged on a Big East court. The coaching staff’s defensive adjustment to Villanova’s early method of attacking the zone. And, eventually, an enormous contribution by Kristof “K-Ong” Ongenaet. How enormous? Check it:
The first 10-15 minutes, Kristof was just taking up space. Actually, it was worse than that. On defense, he was letting guys roam the baseline behind him, and on offense he threw the ball to Nova players a couple times. He looked as if he’d reverted to early-season bewilderment. But something changed towards the end of the first half — he snapped into the game somehow. his defense got a bit better and he hit the boards some. And in the 2nd half he made a number of clutch plays. The biggest, of course, was dropping in that three-pointer with the shot clock expiring and Nova having just hit two threes in a row to climb within 6 points. But he also had that nice reverse layup, a three-point play, and tightened up his defense dramatically. He even had a couple of assists! His confidence has improved so much in just the last week-plus, and the results are plainly evident.
The insertion of Ongenaet into the starting lineup, while it was not exactly by choice, has ended up paying big dividends for SU. Even though Paul Harris is a beast, the defense and rebounding have been significantly better with the larger front line, and putting Paul’s beast-ness (and longer arms) up at the top of the zone. The main weakness of this lineup is ball-handling. I thought it was a smart move by Jay Wright to bring lots of full-court pressure, and it forced a number of turnovers early. Harris in particular got his pocket cleanly picked a couple times. But the SU coaches know this weakness — you could see that they had worked on press-breaking in practice, and that the goal was just to get it over the timeline, not to try to take extra advantage pushing the ball upcourt (which is just as likely to result in a turnover). Just get it over the line and then relax for a moment, set up. A wise move I think.
I’ll leave it to the rest of the world to opine on Harris’ dominance, Flynn’s dictating of the game, and even Jackson’s solid contribution. But this post: props to K-Ong. (Mainly because I’ve been wanting to use that picture for several days.)